SHIPPENSBURG >> The end of a high school sports season is always tough, but this one hurt the Shippensburg football team a little more.
The Greyhounds couldn’t move the ball offensively in the second half, and Exeter Township kicker Sean Henry made three field goals to lift the Eagles to a 16-14 win in the quarterfinals of the District 3 Class 5A Playoffs at Veteran’s Stadium.
The loss ends a historic season for Ship. Its 10-0 regular season was the first under coach Eric Foust and the first since 1986. But after a win over Solanco in the opening round of the playoffs., the frigid temperatures and a stifling Exeter Township defense spelled the end to the Hounds’ campaign.
“I’ve lost plenty of games. That’s not what hurts,” said an emotional Foust. “I’m upset that it ended because it was so much fun to work and so much fun to practice with these kids. I’m just disappointed it’s over.”
Leading 14-10 at halftime, No. 3 Shippensburg, which ends its season with an 11-1 record, held the No .11 Eagles (9-3) to just six points on two field goals in the second half, but the Greyhound offense managed just one first down after the break and never got their passing game in rhythm.
Trailing 16-14 with just under two minutes left, Zack Manning threw a pass slightly high to Isaiah Houser. Houser jumped for the ball on a skinny post but couldn’t come down with what would have been a big gain. Facing constant pressure from the Eagles pass rush, Manning followed with two more incompletions before being intercepted by Alex Javier to seal the game.
“We were just a hair off all night, offensively,” Foust said. “The cold weather definitely played a factor, but that’s no excuse, because Exeter had to deal with it to. We just never got into a rhythm, and they were able to get pressure on Zack early.”
Exeter Township came into the game featuring a prolific pass attack, but the Greyhounds were able to keep quarterback Gavin McCusker at bay throughout the game. He finished 7 of 18 for 76 yards.
“We switched up our defense and got some more defensive backs on the field,” said Ship linebacker Jacob Loy. “I moved to middle linebacker to attack the run game, and Max (Kalb) played the hawk position to help with the pass.”
And while Ship’s defense was able to slow down the Eagles pass attack, that opened running lanes for Exeter running back Wender Polanco. Polanco finished with 160 yards on 29 carries, including runs of 11 and 21 yards that set up the go-ahead 20-yard field goal from Henry, who finished 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and also converted a PAT. Polanco outgained Ship’s offense, 171-135.
Said Polanco, “It’s a happy feeling. I’m glad I was able to get the ball and follow my blocks. I know I did my job tonight. It could have been better, but we got it done
“At the end of the day, I think these teams underestimate us.”
Max Kalb led the Ship offense with 50 yards on 11 carries, including a pair of touchdowns from eight and 24 yards, respectively. But ultimately, Exeter Township was able to make one more play than the Greyhounds to advance to the district semifinals.
“This defense is the best defense I’ve ever played with,” said Ship outside linebacker Colton Musser. “We went old school tonight and did our job, but it just wasn’t enough. I’ll always remember the big hits and big plays we made together on this defense.”
Said Foust, “Fridays are always great, but I think what I’ll miss most about this group is Monday through Thursday. They were just a great group to be with, and they made coaching easy and fun.”
Exeter Township will travel to face No. 2 Cedar Cliff next week in the District 3 Class 5A Semifinals.
EAGLES 16, GREYHOUNDS 14
Exeter Twp. 3 7 3 3 – 16
Shippensburg 7 7 0 0 – 14
ET — Sean Henry 21 field goal, 6:39
S — Max Kalb 8 run (Rob West kick), 1:06
ET — Ty Yocum 1 run (Henry kick) 4:12
S — Kalb 24 run (West kick), 1:19
ET —Henry 28 field goal, 0:45
ET —Henry 20 field goal, 6:23
First Downs: ET 14; Sh 6. Rushes-yards: ET 47-185; Sh 25-106. Passing: ET 7-18-1; Sh 4-18-3. Passing Yards: ET 76; Sh 29. Penalties-yards: ET 8-60; Sh 4-30. Punts-yards: ET 5-37.2; Sh 5-37. Fumbles-lost: ET 0-0; Sh 2-1.
Rushing: Exeter Township, Wender Polanco 29-160, Alex Javier 4-12, J. R. Strauss 4-7, Jeremiah Nixon 1-5, Devon Scott 2-3, Ty Yocum 2-1, Gavin McCusker 5-(-3); Shippensburg, Max Kalb 11-50, Alex Sharrow 7-27, Jacob Loy 6-15, Zack Manning 1-14.
Passing: Exeter Township, McCusker 7-18-1, 76 yards; Shippensburg, Manning 4-17-3, 29 yards, Loy 0-1-0, 0 yards.
Receiving: Exeter Township, Scott 2-23, Joey Schlaffer 2-24, Alex Javier 1-9, Polanco 2-11; Shippensburg, Isaiah Houser 2-21, Nick Gustafson 1-11, Sharrow 1-(-3).